An Adventurous Heart

???????????????????????????????By Katie Kafka

I love a good adventure. It often involves excitement, intrigue, unusual places, sweat and challenges. It is a journey to personal growth. Adventure can happen in community with others, or it can be a solo act. I love that it is an experience nobody can take away from you. Adventures give you an opportunity to accomplish goals. Even better, they can lead towards discovering how God has created you.

I have learned God has created me with a tenacious spirit. From tackling and remembering the adventures in life, He has shown me time and again He is present, active, living and invested in me.

This morning I brought my adventure pack. It is full of gear that is useful for the journey. Of course, we carry all the items with us as we go, but there may be certain points along the trail where one item is particularly helpful.

  • Hat and sunscreen–for protection from the elements
  • Sunglasses–to see clearly and keep glares from blinding you. I’m reminded of Matthew 5:8, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”
  • Map–all of us need direction and knowledge of how to get from point A to point B. A map can help us mentally prepare for the terrain ahead.
  • Trail shoes–provide firm footing and help tackle the demands of the trail. They also leave your mark on the path.

One event that has had a profound impact on my life is the termination of my parents’ marriage when I was 7 years old. From then on, life quickly became an adventure for me. The messiness of divorce seeped into life’s little moments and brought quite a bit of stress to the big moments.

As single parents, both my mom and dad had busy, demanding jobs, and we kids were often left home alone or unattended for prolonged amounts of time. We faced financial struggles. Child support was always an argumentative topic. Often we were asked to show loyalty to one parent or the other because neither agreed on what happened to cause the failure of their marriage.

My parents lived in different states making goodbyes very difficult. Both of my parents eventually remarried and after that, I never felt 100% comfortable and free in my own home. Graduation ceremonies turned into an orchestration of how to keep my parents from bumping into each other, rather than a celebration of accomplishments. My dad did not even participate in my wedding. He was not there to walk me down the aisle. He had reason why this choice was justified, but I seemed to block that out of my memory.

Most days I could handle these burdens with strength and a smile on my face. I have to admit there were times when all I could do was break down. Childhood was such an adventure.

This is an example of when adventure is handed to you. I did not choose to make this journey. In fact, I would probably choose NOT to experience it. Becoming an adult and a parent has brought me some clarity. And somehow, God has given me peace over these circumstances rather than bitterness. He has given me:

  • Renewed vision–a little bit of God vision. I understand my parents are sinners saved by grace. They are not perfect. Parenting is hard regardless of the circumstances.
  • Protection–my dad was awarded full custody of us children. For my dad, church involvement was a priority. He made sure I knew Jesus and helped me cultivate a strong relationship with my Savior.
  • Guidance–I have gone to God’s Word for direction. It has been my road map along the way.
  • Firm footing–As I studied the road map, I have been overwhelmed by God’s love for me. God’s compassionate, unfailing, everlasting love has given me strength to meet the demands of the trail.

I think we all have an adventure of choice. Think of an activity that excites you, rejuvenates you, keeps you grounded, yet drives you forward. My adventure of choice is running. In April 2014, I had the privilege of running in the Boston Marathon. The totality of this experience went well beyond physical gain.

I was inspired by the 2012 Summer Olympics track and field events. I watched a feature on two distance runners, an endearing story of how Mo Farah (Great Britain) and Galen Rupp (United States) trained together. Their story was a mixture of hard work and friendship and watching them compete in the same race motivated me. I wanted to run faster.

So I registered for the 2013 Lincoln Marathon. Training for this event went amazingly well. I felt healthy the entire time. I ran the marathon in 3 hours and 32 minutes which gave me the qualifying time I needed to earn a spot in the Boston Marathon.

After I registered for the 2014 Boston Marathon, things took a turn for the worse. Training became a struggle due to a series of physical setbacks. Two weeks into training I started experiencing pain in my right foot. On top of that, I was drained and sick for a good month, trying to kick a cold that lingered for several weeks. My foot pain became worse and spread to my ankle. Two weeks before the race, I started physical therapy. I could barely run a couple of miles without intense foot pain. I sat in the physical therapy office doubting whether I would even be able to cross the finish line. I found myself questioning my choices. Why am I doing this? What is the big deal? It’s just a race. Still. I had trained for a year and a half for this moment. It would be nice to cross the finish line.

These are valid questions. Why? Why go through all of this? Training for marathons is a little excessive, don’t you think? Let alone, when you’ve acquired an injury from it all. The single answer to all these is simple. I feel the nearness of God when I run.

During those moments of training, I have conversation with Him. It is a time when I can process life, give thanks and identify my need for Him

One of my favorite things about races are the spectators. Complete and total strangers cheering you on, giving encouragement, motivating you through a rough spot. In the Boston Marathon, the entire route, 26.2 miles–start to finish, was filled with cheering spectators. I think this is a taste of heaven and a glimpse of God’s character. He is our biggest fan! He is constantly applauding our efforts. Smiling over us.

The finish line at the Boston Marathon is a memory I will not forget. I was surrounded by thousands of people and yet felt like it was just me and God there. I was overwhelmed on many levels. I was:

  • amazed I made it to the end
  • ecstatic my foot was not a hindrance. It felt strong the whole time.
  • grateful for the prayers of family and friends that were my protection that day
  • overwhelmed by the ups and downs of this year and a half journey
  • shocked that I snagged another qualifying time by 20 seconds
  • blessed to have such an adventure
  • aware of how God was with me the entire time

I would like to close my time with a song that gives me a burst of energy. I hear it and it makes me either want to get up and dance or run faster. It brings joy to my adventure, but most importantly, the words are the cry of my heart.

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